Tiger Darrow is a New York based, award-winning singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer who began her career as a classically trained cellist. We had a chat about her music and how her varied career brought her to where she is today.
How did you get into music production?
When I was about 13, my mom gave me a USB microphone that I would use to record simple demos of the songs I’d written after school. I was learning to play the cello at the time, and sitting in an orchestra surrounded by other instruments playing counter-melodies and harmonies with one another inspired me to add similar textures to the music I was writing. My uncle was the only other person in our family who had pro audio experience, so he helped me convince my mother that I needed an interface, a better microphone, and a DAW. She didn’t need much convincing, so she took me to Guitar Center to get what I needed. My new tech toys inspired me to write and produce something like 25 songs for myself using the instruments I’d collected over time blended with household objects. I had no idea at the time that what I was doing was considered production—I was just having fun with a microphone.
What’s the best thing about being a producer and what has been the biggest challenge in your career?
I love being a producer especially in the context of songwriting/co-writing. When I’m writing, I often need a couple of changes of mental scenery to get my brain to stay focused on the task at hand, and if I’m producing what I’m writing, I can let my brain switch to thinking about drum sounds or synth lines for a moment so I don’t burn out on a lyric idea.
I also live for goosebump moments and hearing the artists I work with shout with joy at drops. I believe music is consumed viscerally first, then intellectually upon a second listening. I love listening to songs that make me feel something both emotionally and physically, so I get so proud and excited when I feel like I’ve accomplished that in my own work.
I think my biggest challenge at the moment is that I’m still confronted with sexism in weird, shrouded ways. I’ve had men offer to “ghost produce” things I’m working on. I’ve noticed some people don't take me as seriously because I work from home rather than in a dedicated studio, when I know plenty of male producers who work from home and don’t appear to have any problems. It’s very disappointing, especially in 2021.
Tell us about the piece you’re most proud of producing and why?
I like to think that I continue to grow and change and evolve as a producer, so I’m pretty sure I always think the very last thing I’ve produced is the one I’m the most proud of. That said, I do love being an artist as well as a producer, because I can explore production techniques and ideas that I’m curious about without being concerned if they fit another artist’s style. I have a few unreleased songs that I’m feeling excited about because I really just let go of any and all rules and let myself be weirder production-wise.
If you could give aspiring producers one piece of advice, what would it be?
My grandfather taught me how to paint when I was younger, and he told me, "It’s always going to look worse before it looks better. When it becomes muddy, keep working at it and the image will start to take shape ". I feel like I run into that issue with a new production from time to time. I’ll work at an idea and then completely start to lose sight of what’s happening and everything becomes mud for a moment. But when I persevere through the frustration and start muting the extraneous things that don’t add to the overall picture, then add things to highlight specific moments, the image gets clearer.
Describe your sound and how you use Reason to achieve that.
My sound is a little all over the place. It’s indie pop with some elements of RnB and computer pop (I love Sophie and Charli XCX, as well as FKA Twigs and Sevdaliza). Despite the fact that I’m a cellist, right now, my favorite instrument is Friktion. I love using an arpeggiator with it and then ultimately adding beds of live strings to it—the blend between the two is such a cool texture. Playing cello is such a big part of my identity as an artist, so using Friktion in conjunction with the live instrument is a fun way to take an instrument that’s often interpreted as “emotional” and give it a little more quirk.
Check out more of Tiger’s music at: www.tigerdarrow.com